Web/Tech

The Importance of Mentoring in the Modern World

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The importance of mentoring, especially in today’s world of “do it yourself” YouTube tutorials and “how-to” blog content, cannot be overstated. Whilst I’m all for autodidactism (self-teaching) and indeed many of the world’s greatest scientists, writers, musicians and artists are self-taught, we cannot all assume that we are in that category. And, even the greatest of us still have a mentor, someone contributing to their personal development. Even if that mentor is not specifically there to advise on the technical skills of writing, boxing, biology, or whatever, they are there to support and develop their ward emotionally and spiritually. How many great people reveal that they could never have done what they did without their partner, friends, parents, or an early role-model who believed in them? So, we can see that mentoring is essential, even, bizarrely, for those who self-teach.

 

There are three major ways to improve oneself: first, trial and error – a necessary but largely expensive way of doing so. The expense comes in the wasted time, money and emotion that trial and error predicates; it may be described as the 'evolutionary' approach – one may be dead before achieving the right solution! Second is modelling; this is a methodology much in vogue in the West since the advent of Neuro Linguistic Programming whose whole rationale was based on observing and imitating excellence. Often coaching uses NLP techniques. We must take a moment to distinguish coaching from mentoring here. They are not the same thing. To quote an extract from my recent book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co written with Bevis Moynan: “The distinction between a coach and a mentor or between the two processes is subtle and sometimes blurred, but generally it is thought that the mentor tends to be more directive towards, more experienced and knowledgeable than, more senior than, the client; whereas the coach tends to be more exploratory, more outside the immediate domain of the client, and ‘more’ equal in terms of status.” So, to continue our exploration of ‘modelling’ as a personal development technique, another word for this would be the old fashioned concept of imitation. Writers, for example, often do not initially attempt to write original poems, but begin by imitating the classics which have been created before, working their way up to discovering their own style. By imitating, they learn what works and what doesn’t work and get inside the head of a successful, or great, writer that has gone before. This is powerful. But third, and finally, we come to mentoring, arguably the most powerful method of all, and certainly the one with the longest pedigree.

 

Mentoring goes back at least as far as the Odyssey of Homer, about 700 BC, and is named after the character, Mentor, an old man and friend of Odysseus, who is asked to look after and educate Odysseus' son, Telemachus as the father goes off to fight in the Trojan War. Clearly, the activity of mentoring pre-dates this particular example, but its point is clear: the mentor is a substitute father figure whose role is to develop the young man, the son. Intriguingly, however, the character Mentor dies before the end of the story, but Telemachus is unaware of this because the goddess of wisdom, Pallas Athene takes his place and simulates the dead man, continuing Telemachus’ training. Thus, mentoring is both a male and female process, and there are benefits from both.

 

How is mentoring such a powerful process? I think it works because it does five things especially well. First, it intensifies experience and the implications of the current situation. Many people who need help come to see a coach, a counsellor, a consultant – a mentor – with a problem; they know it is a problem but often they have not fully grasped the implications. Like some small stone in the shoe, they think they have a minor irritant that they want removed; but the mentor gets them to see that the stone in the shoe is more like a razor blade and if decisive action is not taken soon then they are likely to be crippled.

 

Second, the mentor is somebody – hence the age of Mentor – who typifies experience. The initial reaction we all have – particularly as young people – to a problem is that it is unique. Nobody, for example, has ever fallen in love the way we have, or suffered as we have now that we have been rejected. Effective mentoring cuts through this and enables the client to see that whatever the problem they have, this problem has been encountered before, and therefore there is a solution.

 

Third, and this follows from the second point, the mentor emphasises that you are not alone. Gaining reassurance from the mentor's grasp of the problem, and expression of support, is crucial in building the confidence of the client to tackle the issue.

 

Fourth, the mentor paints a picture, helps you paint a picture, of the desired end state that resolves all the tension. The client confirms what they really want – they visualise and can see it – now as strongly as the problem they had not fully grasped in the first place. From this, fifth and finally, the mentor can help suggest ways forward – drawing on knowledge, experience, like situations, and all that appertains to the case. In short, the mentor becomes this invaluable ally who is truly allied to our needs; just like the substitute father/mother that Mentor originally was.

 

And perhaps that's hardest thing: creating just that level of relationship which is professional and yet presses beyond that – for what true father or mother is satisfied with merely a 'professional' relationship with their child? It is the dimension of commitment that makes all the difference; hence the power of real mentoring.

 

Many people, I believe, feel cut off in this world, hence why they turn to online tutorials and faceless methods of learning. This is not, in any way, a criticism. After all, it seems the world has genuinely become a more dangerous place, more full of conmen, and with more chances for trust to be breached. Taking personal development in your own hands is a commendable and adaptive response to this, but be wary, there are few substitutes for a truly powerful mentor. It should come as no surprise that all of the greatest Greek heroes were taught and led by great mentors. By trusting someone else to expand our self, we can grow infinitely more than pushing on our own. We can become our true self, whole and unimpaired. But only, of course, if the mentor is truly sincere and right for us.

 


Finding Diamonds Before You Go a-Marketing

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Thanks once again for tuning in to Motivational Memos! In our last installment, we talked about the importance of recruitment and how motivation can play a part in good recruitment practice. Today, we’ll be talking about an issue slightly tangential to motivation: marketing, and how doing it right can seriously boost your business.

 

Marketing, as Peter Drucker observed, was one of the two functions that alone made money for a business – all else was a cost. Thus it is PDI – Pretty Damned Important! It’s a shame, therefore, that it only does – usually – half the job. True, that half it may do spectacularly well, but polished fake diamonds with all the branding collateral imaginable are still … only fake.

 

One of the most important things a business needs to do to sustain profits and ensure longevity is to create a compelling narrative about itself. The ‘story’ – or narrative – is the diamond (or diamonds) that the organisation owns and which reflects on its own being. Stories can clearly convey the value proposition more effectively than any other mechanism; they differentiate your product or service from the competition; they can justify premium pricing; and finally stories heal organisations (and individuals) where damage has been done.

 

But generally speaking what marketing companies and internal marketing functions do is polish, present and beautifully brand a ‘false’ diamond. A fake diamond sounds like this: ‘committed to excellence’ or ‘quality first’ or ‘being the best’ or ‘we care for …’ You get the idea: cliché piled on cliché, based on a cliché-d mission statement that sounds just about like everybody else’s mission statement. All false. Think of the Facebook ads being shown in the cinemas right now, claiming they want to “bring us together” and that they don’t stand for the exploitation of persona data. It’s as if they think we can forget overnight the comments made by Zuckerberg and co, and how our data was sold off to third parties. The sad truth is, we just might.

 

Real diamonds are found deep underground; for ‘ground’ here read ‘subconscious’. And when they are found they don’t look like diamonds – more like raw lumps of coal. Knowing where the diamonds are and how to dig for them is what most marketing companies don’t do. Why? Because this is to enter the deep world of ambiguity and uncertainty – it’s not part of the MBA course and it can’t be done by ticking boxes or by having too systematic a process in place. And it can take time. Another word might be ‘inspiration’.

 

On the other hand, get a compelling story and the world – the customers – love you. Take Apple: their story demonstrated in many ways that they are a philosophy company. They study the philosophy of aesthetics and more particularly the beauty of technology. Making profits is a by-product of their obsession with this beauty. A Shaolin Kung Fu practitioner I once knew, hailing from Kunyu, said that: ‘Fighting should only ever be the by-product of Kung Fu.’ Pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual development – in the form of enlightenment was the true calling of any master. As soon as fighting or hurting others becomes the sole aim of Kung Fu, it is lost. It might as well be boxing. “Martial” minus the “art”.

 

In this vein, imagining that making a profit is the primary purpose of a business is part of the cliché-d thinking that also militates against digging for real diamonds, and which leads to superficial, short-lived businesses that add little value.

 

Thus, finding and extracting diamonds – stories/narratives – should be a primary function of marketing, since if it isn’t they polish and present their client well, but alas with an artificial lustre.

 

Remember, narrative may be regarded as a primary act of mind – which means it involves thinking and feeling and knowing – it will come from the whole being and will be self-validating. This is a tall order. But I think such a narrative will pass five tests which – in a mad world – I call SANER. So ask yourself these five questions about your own stories.

 

First, is your story Sincere? Does it come from the heart or is it merely manufactured in the head? Put negatively, are you trying to be a clever-clogs? Stories that speak from the heart are the ones that convince, persuade and ultimately lead people to buy into your product or your proposition.

 

Second, is your story Authentic? By which I mean, is it genuine, or is it, like the diamonds we discussed earlier, fake? An authentic story has what JB Phillips in another context called the ‘ring of truth’ about it and one surprising aspect of this is that it often seems incredible; but the very incredibleness of it testifies to its validity. As GK Chesterton put it: “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be credible”.

 

Third, is your story Noteworthy? And this means the opposite of trivial; but one point of clarification here might be: do not confuse ‘small’ with ‘trivial’ – sometimes the smallest incidents or effects can be hugely revealing in a story and add significantly to it.

 

Fourth, is your story Experiential? Another way of saying this might be: is it real, is it based on experience? The experiential quality of a story means more and more people can identify with it and identify with the mission. To my mind it is no accident that the greatest and most popular of all the Greek myths that have come down to is the one of Odysseus: he may not have been as great a hero as Herakles and Theseus, who were all demi-gods in fact, but that means his story is more human, more available to us, and so we identify with him. It is no accident that everyone’s journey is now termed an ‘odyssey’ after that great and experiential (if in places legendary!) story.

 

Finally, is your story Relevant? This is a key criterion for storytelling and it depends on our understanding the audience for whom we are telling the story. We may tell two very different stories, one for a business audience and one for our family and friends; each may be perfect for that audience, but completely inappropriate if told to the other audience. For this we need to develop empathy with people and with the ‘tribes’ we wish to persuade.

 

In business, then, or in life, how good are your stories and what do you need to do to find the real diamonds? Rest assured: we all have diamonds, but very few get to polish them to their true outstanding brightness.

 

 

 

 


Recruitment and Motivation

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Recruitment is a serious business. Indeed, it could and can be argued that the number one skill of an effective leader is their ability to be able to recruit effectively. Leadership itself is the primary cause of success in any organisation; how often do we observe the sad demise of so many organisations who have basked in the sunlight of one particular leader’s skill and ability, but this has not been replicated in depth throughout the whole organisation. Thus, when the leader departs chaos and indiscipline, in-fighting breaks out, and the game is lost. The organisation, once top in its field, now goes to the wall.

More even than that, however, appointing poor and/or weak staff to an organisation has enormous implications that are financial, reputational, motivational and productivity-linked. In pure financial terms and at the lower levels of an organisation, the costs start at about £10,000 and can easily rise to six figure sums at the senior end if the person appointed has to leave within six months of starting. Naturally, this outflow of embittered staff leaving so soon can become – if it’s a pattern – reputationally damaging to our organisation. Certainly, it will affect in its wake the levels of customer service upon which the whole organisation depends.

Further, according to the Pareto Principle, we can recruit people who are some sixteen times less productive than their more able counterparts! Sixteen times less productive!! Never let the impact of one person (whether positively or negatively) be underestimated! Imagine what it might mean if even an average member of your team were to be four times more productive – what would happen to your business? And that is the ‘promise’ of good recruitment: it is about increasing the odds that we will make a fantastic appointment.

Finally, we come back to the central issue of motivation, for it is motivated staff who are the most productive, the most engaged, and the happiest. Motivated staff have no need to complain, because they feel valued, take pride in what they do, and want to contribute. On that basis, then, yes, we as managers have a responsibility to motivate our staff; but before we get there, surely, it would be good to recruit highly motivated people in the first place? For it is a truth that the highly motivated are more likely to have the energy that all success depends upon.

The benefits, then, of effective recruitment should be very clear: higher productivity, greater customer satisfaction, higher staff retention, lower costs, enhanced reputation, less wastage generally and fewer errors, happier staff and greater profitability.

The following guide is toolkit to help you select and recruit staff more effectively into your organisation. It draws upon standard best practice, which should never be ignored, but adds something extra too: the Motivational Map. And this is important – you are now reading something that is on the one hand obvious, and on the other profound and difficult to do. For we all know that motivation is critical – heavens above, athletes and sports people swear by it – it is, above skill set, usually the difference that makes the difference.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘First is courage, second is strength, and third is Kung Fu.’ What this means is that skill and strength, whilst they are important factors, are still subordinate to courage – your mindset and attitude. Time again we see the technically superior athlete or business-person outmaneuvered by the courageous and motivated one. I would actually use the recent World Cup as an example of this. England was certainly not the most technically excellent team within the competition by any stretch, nor the most experienced, fielding one of the youngest teams; but their motivation and attitude (supplemented by meditation and team-building and steered by exceptional leadership) carried them all the way to the semi-finals, a staggering result.

How much do you want it? Why should it be any different for those in employment: how much do you want to make a success of your job, your role? And how much you want it will determine how successful you are in any normal playing field.

But here comes the odd bit. Traditionally, most companies know motivation is important, but have no way of establishing whether somebody is motivated or not except through three elements. What are those three elements? Testimonial, interview, and achievement. But here’s the other odd bit: none of these three elements are especially reliable. Testimonials? Well, they can glow but how glad is the one writing the testimonial to be rid of this particular person?

Interviews can be effective, but usually aren’t because we all have a bias to recruit in our own likeness, and we are not even aware of it. For example, ideas people are often excited by other ideas people, when in actuality, their skills might be better balanced by a hardy implementer.

Finally, achievement seems solid, doesn’t it? Look what they’ve achieved, surely we need them? But here’s where the financial industry helps us with that famous strapline: ‘past performance is no guide to future …’ Indeed! How often do we find high achievers now moving out, now looking for a more comfortable and relaxed existence somewhere else – going to pasture, as they say? Or alternatively, their achievements are a sort of fetishization of success, which is all about me, me, me and not about the good of the whole, the company.

And this is why the Motivational Maps are so important: they describe, they measure, they monitor and maximise motivation for the first time. For the purpose of recruitment we need the first two qualities: they describe and measure motivation in a way that is understandable and metric. In fact, they make what is invisible visible. In describing motivation, they also give us a language to talk about it that is nuanced and empathetic, as opposed to the drill-sergeant effect of most motivational efforts. With these two factors in our understanding, we can make seriously better judgements about the suitability of anyone for a given role.



Weird and Wonderful for Business!

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According to Martin Davidson, a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, business culture can tend to weed out the weird! This can be a big mistake because it is ‘weird’ people, or certain kinds of weird people, that create potency and innovation which enable businesses to thrive. This can be expressed in a variety of ways, but the most obvious is perhaps in the need to avoid cloning people into the culture they join; a situation in which they have to adapt (and adopt to) the mores and social norms of what passes for normal or even acceptable behaviour. As I’ve said before, like attracts like, and companies that like certainties (particularly financial certainties), will always draw people who like certainties. We are not talking here about table manners, but modes of thinking, aspects of deference (so readily leading into the dead-end called ‘group-think’), and business as usual, meaning ‘not invented here’ and ‘this is how we’ve always done it’. These ‘norms’ invariably cost businesses, and ultimately lead to their demise.

 

So business leaders should not see diversity as being some sort of distraction imposed on them by HR or legislation! Rather diversity within the workforce can provide competitive advantage; we need people who can be constructively disruptive, who can consistently challenge group-think, and who’re not addicted to conflict avoidance. People who, in short, pre-empt the devastating fate of those organizations who are little more than a comfortable country club where received opinion is indeed received. We need challenge, at a deep level, if only because 70% of the decisions we make are wrong. With challenge, with weirdness, that figure might reduce. Without it, then it is almost certainly going to increase. Can we afford that level of error? In this way, we must overcome our resistance to change in order to improve.

 

One of the most powerful tools to assist us in this area is Motivational Maps. The reason this is so powerful is because the maps establish what people really want. In other words, in selecting the new member of the team we have the opportunity to review what we really want in the team member and compliment the current team dynamic. We get to ask ourselves the question: is this kind of selection criteria really in the best interests of the team achieving its remit? All too often people are selected on the basis of their qualifications, skills and ‘fit’ where fit means fitting in – not rocking the boat. But what if not fitting, rocking the boat, is really what the team needs?

 

This is not a decision to be made lightly, but it is a decision to be made where appropriate, and it requires skill and insight to do it. For in talking about rocking the boat, we don’t mean a rough and ready character who is always taking on everyone and generating conflict wherever they go; we mean the kind of person whose energies are directed in ways that ‘conflict’ with the team, but in such a way that they throw light on an overarching problem the team has.

 

Suppose, for example, that we have a team that is extremely risk-friendly (e.g.. A sales team) – excessively so, and this has created a series of impulsive deals that the organisation as a whole has had a chance to repent of at leisure. In that situation, installing a suitably qualified candidate in every way, including risk-aversion, would be ideal. And the reverse too: suppose we have a fuddy-duddy team who are extremely change-averse (e.g. a finance team), then we might want to appoint a suitable candidate who is also risk-friendly as a maverick in the pack. It is precisely in these areas that Motivational Maps can direct with authority – given a fully trained and experienced practitioner.

 

Of course, to other team members, to the management itself, somebody with different energies, different motivators, is going to appear ‘weird’, an ‘odd one out’ as it were, but that is the challenge we face all the time – accepting difference and building on it.

 

Martin Orridge gives five reasons why there is poor creativity – or innovation – within an organisation. They are: looking for logical solutions, basing solutions on the past, too analytical, approach too formal, and liking to focus on detail. All these are classic organisational traits. They are what we expect people to do: be logical, son! Today is the like the past, dear daughter! Analyse, analyse, analyse; and don’t let your hair down! It’s all in the details …

 

But the paradigm is shifting now. We’re recognising that working more doesn’t necessary equate to greater productivity. We’re beginning (ever so slowly) to recognise it’s not possible to create a business that endlessly grows, like clockwork, year after year. That’s not how the universe works. Things go up, then they go down. Life is a sine wave. Our analytical brains have created a cult around numbers and percentages, but we’re realising these are not sure metrics of success, or longevity. Other, less easily measured traits, such as customer-satisfaction and loyalty, and team-motivation, just might be. We need weirdos who are focused on these invisible measures and outcomes.

 

We want people who are ‘thinking outside the box’, to use a cliche, but only when this creativity is applied morally, and is balanced by others who are anchored in reality. I must stress: thinking outside the box is not thinking of quirky ways to rip people off, because that gets exposed pretty quickly. In video-games, at the launch of Microsoft’s new XboxOne console, they announced that it would no longer be possible to share games (aka, to take a disc around a friend’s house and lend them the game). The discs would be coded to prevent this. The uproar quickly made Microsoft change their mind, and quite rightly. Imagine thinking you could kill the second-hand market overnight? Imagine if they tried to do that with cars? Ridiculous, right? Someone had a weird idea, an idea that could secure them money, but that weirdness was not tempered with integrity.

 

To compare this with a positive example, think of how the weirdness is making a come-back in cinema. With the turn of 2010, it seemed nobody wanted to take a risk on a radical movie anymore. Think back to the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the early 2000s, and how diverse and strange the filmography was. David Fincher was writing disturbing and unusual masterpieces such as Fight Club, Seven, and The Fall. Post 2010, he was forced to do movies such as The Social Network (about Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook [2010]) and Gone Girl (the movie based on a popular thriller [2014]). These weren’t necessarily bad movies, but they didn’t feel particularly different to the rest of it. Now, weird films are coming back. Innovative directors such as Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Guillermo del Toro are giving us very different movies: The Shape of Water, Get Out, Hereditary. Whether you like them is a matter of personal taste. But the fact is these films are drawing people in droves. Why? Because they are different, so utterly distinct from what we’ve had for the last few years.

 

We need to innovate, to be weird, but in the right way. We need to break free from our constrictions.

 

What if we could find and use a tool that would help us do this? That valued intuition whilst at the same time understood the power of logic, yet too knew that relationships are key.

 

And yes, the tool exists – it’s called Motivational Maps and so invites you to enter its weird and wonderful world!

 

 

 


What the World Cup 2018 Can Teach Us About Motivation

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I’m not normally much interest in football, but I have to say that even I was drawn in to the kind of intoxicating idea that England might, for the first time in 52 years, win the World Cup. It took hold of us, a bit like a creeping spell cast by an unseen magician, and had us all on tenterhooks. Sadly, last night, the spell broke, and it seems England will be going home without the trophy. However, what they will be going home with is, hopefully, a newfound sense of self-respect, determination and focus.

 

What impressed me immensely about this World Cup was that there were hardly a whiff of tantrums, or debauchery behind the scenes, or entitlement. This was an entirely different England. After the humiliations of our government, the debacles of Brexit, and the many instances we have lost face with our friends abroad, it was a delightful relief to be fronted internationally by a team that seemed to prioritise respect and camaraderie over winning at all costs. The team looked focused. They played dynamically. They didn’t play just to score a goal then conserve energy, they played to please the crowd, to score as many goals as possible (against Panama, albeit a newer less experienced team, they scored 6). Whilst the players are to be commended for their heroic efforts and dazzling technical displays, particularly from the aptly named Harry Kane (fear the lash of his free-kick), I believe the success of the team in reaching the semi-finals, along with the psychological paradigm shift and complete transformation of attitude, is down to their coach and leader: Gareth Southgate.

 

He was cool, calm, and, to quote many of the footballers on the team, kind. His motto was “Strength through kindness”, and he conducted himself with patient dignity at all times. During the nerve-wracking penalty shootout with Colombia, in which England scraped a win 4-3, he chose, rather than celebrating with the others, to console the Colombian player that had missed his shot. Gareth Southgate himself failed to score a penalty in the 1996 UEFA Euro semifinal against Germany – which led to their defeat. This incredible display of empathy for a distraught player on the opposing team shows true leadership qualities. Intriguingly, Southgate picked the England penalty shooters based on psychological tests indicating who would best keep their cool.

 

Clearly, the England coach understands the number one rule of leadership, that the primary role of a leader is to motivate a team, not necessarily to have the best knowledge, ability, or strategies. The same applies for his team. He did not pick the strikers with the best and most accurate kicks, he picked the people who would remain calm in a highly pressured situation. He recognised internal qualities, sought to understand the internal landscape of his team, and based his decisions around this information. By inspiring the team, getting them to believe that they could break the curse of England’s poor performance, they went further than they could have ever dreamed two years ago.

 

The word “inspire” comes from the ancient Greek, and means to literally “breathe life”. It is a divine act, there is something sacred about it. Gareth Southgate has breathed life into a game I had little interest in to begin with, but lost all hope of some time ago with the abysmal antics and attitudes of previous England teams; he gave people something to believe in. And yes, whilst football is just a game, it holds symbolic significance for many people, and therefore is not to be dismissed. Football can be used for good, to make positive influences on the world. It’s already happening. Fans are behaving in ways they never would have done two years ago, raising a cheerful glass to Croatia and congratulating them, intervening when crowds get rough. Their attitude is transforming along with the team. And it all seems to be rippling out from one person. That is the amazing thing about real motivation, it’s infectious, it wants to be found.

 

There were calls for Gareth Southgate to take Theresa May’s job at the close of the England versus Croatia game last night. Though a joke, it hits the nail on the head. A leader, especially the leader of a country, isn’t successful purely in relation to technical proficiency or knowhow. They need to have integrity, empathy, strength, courage and vision; aka, invisible, less easily measured qualities. The England coach showed us what that looked like for four weeks. It’s a blessing to see true motivation in action, and to know that there are still those who recognise its power and value.


Overcoming Resistance to Change

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Carl Jung observed that "All true things must change and only that which changes remains true". This is a profound paradox, especially when you consider that for all the talk of change there is today, the reality is that most people and most organisations don’t want it. Why would they? Only yesterday, Tesco and Apple were at the top of their game; they were unbeatable superstar companies that the world admired and wanted to emulate; today – after change – they are less on top, less precious, threatened by radicals and upstarts as well as public perception about their integrity. So the process goes on. We do not want to relinquish what we have achieved, but change necessitates that we have to let go. Jung’s point makes it clear that once we embrace stasis, we ossify, and what was a winning formula no longer works. “Every dog has its day”, as the saying goes, and even Muhammed Ali cannot be the greatest forever.

 

The need for security, then, means we have an inbuilt resistance to change, yet we know we must change if we are to become all that we might be, as individuals and as organisations. After all, who wants to remain a child indefinitely? What are the factors that enable us or our organisation more specifically to overcome resistance to change? I think there are three.

 

First, in order for organisations (but think individuals too) to want to embrace change they need a compelling vision; a vision is promissory note on the future. It creates an expectation – a belief in an unborn outcome, and belief is amazingly powerful. It’s emotional for one thing and this is important. As Donald Calne said, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions”. The vision then galvanises action – we move towards it; and the stronger and more constant the vision the more powerfully and consistently we move towards it.

 

Second, it’s all well having a vision, but we all know about what we call ‘unrealistic’ visions: people and organisations pitching ludicrously high, way above any possibility of fulfilment. For any vision to be really strong, it needs strong foundations, and these can be summed up in the word, resources. Have we the resources necessary to achieve the vision? If we do, the excitement is palpable; if we do not, the self-delusion is crushing. But what are these resources?

 

I think there are nine key resources we need to consider and these are in three groups of three. First, and most obviously, there are the tangible resources we need to complete the vision: Money, Equipment, Space (or the Environment). Next there are intangible resources we need: Time, Knowledge, Information. Finally, we need people and we need people development factors: People Skills, Right Attitude or Motivation, and Agreed Co-operation. On this last point, so often overlooked, we must bear in mind that sometimes even with all the money and time in the world we still cannot get what we want unless we can get cooperation from others.

 

It might be thought that if we had the vision and the resources, then bingo! we’re home and dried, but alas, certainly from an organisational point of view, this is not the case. Vision and Resources are not enough in themselves to compel people to want to change; remember, they are safe and secure where they are. As Philip Crosby put it: “Good ideas and solid concepts have a great deal of difficulty in being understood by those who earn their living by doing it some other way”. The last factor in overcoming resistance to change may surprise you.

 

For people, and so for organisations, to want to change they need to be dissatisfied with the status quo! That’s right – they need to be unhappy with the way things are. Hence the formula:

 

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Or, Vision x Resources x Dissatisfaction with Status Quo Overcomes Resistance to Change

 

Thus, a weird corollary of this can be that staff are too happy, too contented, too well paid, too secure and this leads to a dreadful stagnation in terms of organisational development. The old Mystery Plays in England had a character, the devil, who had a great line which said: “mankind’s chiefest enemy was security” because the devil knew that once complacency stuck in mankind was vulnerable to all forms of temptation – forgetting the way and losing sight of the vision. Sometimes management simply has to create a constructive discontent if things are going to move on at all.

 

Also, clearly, I hope, is the idea of knowing just how contented or discontented your staff are, and apart from them bellowing directly in your ear, or simply quitting, the most effective way of knowing, and certainly the most accurate, is via Motivational Maps.

 

But apart from using Maps strategically, there are four things you can do anyway to ease a change management program and overcome resistance. First, remember to go at pace staff can move at. You are in a hurry, but they may not see the urgency – assess their capabilities first and recall the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race. Second, target objectives which inform activities; in other make their work purposeful and point in the direction of the vision. Third, protect areas of professionalism (e.g. process, strategies) but always give clear objectives. Change programs which undermine the professional standing of the players always incur the most bitter resistance. Finally, encourage individuals to see how their area contributes to the whole organisational objectives – the big picture, the vision. We all want to make a difference at some level – let’s help people do it.

 

 


Six Ways to Boost Your Career

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Last month, we looked at the Six Problems with Success Syndrome, highlighting the dangers of complacent thinking in businesses and possible ways to counteract them. Today, we’ll be looking at six positive ways you can make an impact on your career

 

In running training sessions and going into companies, I frequently find myself in conversation with staff and management. At some point, the issue turns from the specific training to more personal matters – their professional development. Unsurprisingly, this topic never fails to interest. How do we develop professionally?

 

This is a big question. Briefly, let me give you six thoughts that can seriously help you accelerate your career.

 

First, seek more training. Training is the key. Do we have the knowledge, the skills, the motivations to cope with the accelerating rate of change? Moreover, are you in the top 10% of people doing what you do? This should be your ambition. Ongoing training is one vehicle to drive you there. Remember, the person who is in the top 10% never lacks opportunities for work! This is so much better, incidentally, than desperately trying to be number 1 at everything – being number 1 is an exhausting, arduous and perilous process – you can never quite be sure. Being in the top 10% is certain – if you put in the effort and sustain it, you will arrive. Of course, make sure to begin with that you are on the right career path!

 

Second, review your commitment to your job every month. It’s strange how nearly everyone has 100% commitment when they first get a job. Suddenly, four years or four months later, somebody notices that Eddy or Angie only has 40% commitment or less. But it didn’t suddenly drop from 100 to 40 in one fell swoop – it happened gradually. If you find yourself regularly thinking your commitment is below 80%, then it might be time to consider your options. Don’t wait till everyone else knows your heart’s not in it.

 

Third, update your CV every 6 months. It’s surprising how easily we forget what we’ve done and learnt. This is preparedness. It also feels good – we establish, visually, a record of what we’ve done, and we feel ready to fly. This increases our sense of control – which boosts our self-esteem, which – in turn – boosts our actual performance levels.

 

Fourth, start a diary. If that sounds too much hassle, then at least log daily what you’ve achieved. It’s estimated that some 75% of our self-talk is negative. Concentrate on your achievements. Make a point of listing at least three major achievements a day. And if you are saying, ‘I don’t have three major achievements a day – on any day’, then you seriously need to review what your life is about. Remember, every time you satisfy a human need, then you are engaged in a major activity. We need to see the world with the eyes of a child to appreciate how miraculous it is – and how much we can be contributing to other people’s lives.

 

Fifthly, and this takes some swallowing, but … actively request new tasks from your boss! Don’t wait to be asked. Don’t, in fact, be passive – like most people. Many people think that bosses want highly intelligent and highly qualified people around them. Perhaps. But faced with an interesting debate with Jones, with all the qualifications: PHD, MBA, BA (Hons) Oxon, and Smith, whose motto is: ‘I get things done immediately’, they usually prefer Smith.

 

Which leads nicely to my final point, six.

 

Imagine you are the boss. Put yourself in his or her shoes. They have problems to solve – who can solve these problems for them – can you solve them now? Ask yourself these questions: what does your organisation need now? What steps need to be taken now? And you, following point 5, take those steps! Remember, the whole reason to be at work (and life for that matter) is to solve problems. The more problems you solve for your boss, the more they like, recommend, depend on, and are likely to advance and reward you. It’s obvious – but how many people do you think actively follow this through?

 

If you take these six points on board, watch your career develop! And watch the flood of inspiration you will undoubtedly feel.

 


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” PART 3

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been posting extracts from my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. You can find the extract from Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 via the provided links. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing my third and final extract from the book. This extract is from Chapter 3: “Pareto, Performance and Motivational Maps”

We are happy when we are in harmony; according to the Tao Te Chingi, in harmony with the Tao. The Tao is the Way - essentially, the natural flow of the universe and how it operates. It is an impersonal force according to the Tao Te Ching, but there is no problem in calling this 'God' if one wishes to. The point is that the universe conforms and complies with certain rules and principles and when we violate these we suffer. A simple and obvious example would be committing murder: all human societies have condemned the practice since the beginning of recorded time; and that murderers suffer is not only because if they get caught they are punished, but even if they are not caught history and literature provide ample testimony to the torments of the mind that they become prey toii. With this in mind, then, are there any natural laws of the universe that we inadvertently fail to respect or act upon? Laws whose existence we do not acknowledge or ignore, or whose tenets we flatly contradict or believe the opposite of?

 

There may be severaliii but there is certainly one which has huge ramifications on our everyday life, and on coaching practice in particular. One of the major issues affecting nearly everybody as a negative subconscious belief is that the universe works in a 50-50 way. Put another way, this means that all causes and inputs are more or less equal in terms of their symptoms and outputs. Again, a simple example illustrates the point: say, we get 100 (or 1000!) emails in our inbox and we wade through them as though they were all equally important, each one gets more or less the same amount of our time and attention. If that happens, then we are working on a 50/50 assumption about the nature of reality! We say IF it happens but in truth that is exactly what is happening all the time, since most of the time we are unless we are incredibly disciplined on some sort of automatic pilot or habitual mode of working whereby we deal with things as they turn up. In short, we may have heard of the Pareto Principle or 80/20 Rule as it is sometimes called, but very few people (surely less than 20%?) do anything about it. Some emails are much more important than others, and often that some is about 20% of the total. So the universe works in an asymmetrical or 80/20 way, not a 50/50, all-things-equal way. Things are not equally important. If we wish to be effective, we have to identify the 20% of activities that cause or create 80% of our overall results; and if we go further and 80/20 the 80/20 we realise that 4% of inputs will generate 64%iv of outputs. If we are going to coach effectively this is an astonishing statistic to get our head round for the client.

 

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But from a performance, and so from a coaching perspective, this principle, like Motivational Maps, is a key pillar of effective coaching. Because we cannot do everything, there is an ongoing necessity to prioritise, and this prioritisation requires that we think; and particularly that, as Richard Kochv puts it, we think 80/20.

 

To be clear about this now: 80/20 is not an exact figure. The percentage of inputs may vary, and indeed it is a primary purpose of coaches to skew this ratio. (And they do this by the intervention of coaching). But the starting point might be not 80/20 but 70/30 or 60/40 or 90/10 or 95/5, but whatever it is, it is not 50/50. It also needs to be said that whilst the Pareto Principle holds true in most life and business situations, there can be exceptions. So it is generally true, for example, that for most businesses 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenues; but that probably doesnt work in, say, the supermarket modelvi where 20% of customers probably do not account for 80% of revenues. But so far as coaching, consultancy, training and other service industries are concerned, it is uncannily accurate, as it will be for most sectors and most non-commodity businesses.

 

REFERENCES

i. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu, Richard Wilhelm Edition, Penguin, (1985)

ii. ‘O, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!’– Macbeth, William Shakespeare

iii. For an overview take a look at Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle and 92 Other Powerful Laws of Nature, Nicolas Brealey, (2014), a worthy sequel to his original book on Pareto and which explains ‘92’ other laws that operate in life.

iv. 80/20 Sales and Marketing, Perry Marshall, Entrepreneur Press, (2013)

v. The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch, Nicolas Brealey Publishing, (1997)

vi. Pareto’s Principle, Antoine Delers, Lemaitre Publishing, 2015

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


EXTRACT FROM “MAPPING MOTIVATION FOR COACHING” - PART 2

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Last week, I posted an extract from Chapter 1 of my new book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, to celebrate it being published by Routledge. To recap for those who don’t know, this text is a complete guide to mapping for coaching and an invaluable resource for coaches worldwide. Currently, Routledge are offering (until July 31st) a 30% discount on the book when you buy it from their site and use the code MMJS230, so now’s the time to get your copy! You can find the link to it on Routledge’s site here. If you want to read reviews on Amazon, then you can click here.

 

Today I’ll be sharing more insights with you from the book. This extract is from Chapter 2: “Coaching for Higher Performance”

 

Coaching starts with considering the issue of self-awareness for the simple reason that the person who is not self-aware has – by definition – no awareness, or consciousness, that there is anything on which to work within one self. This applies as much to self-development as it does to coaching a client. If a cat scratches its fur going through a barbed wire fence, we know it has become ‘aware’ of the injury because it will start to lick the wound relentlessly in its efforts to heal the scratch. So even animals become highly self-aware of the issues that concern them; although in human beings, with their powerful intellects and advanced emotional apparatus, this is a far more complex activity.

 

Coaching, then, in simplistic terms might be said to be a 3-step process:


1. Enabling the client to become more self-aware

2. Facilitating their decision to change

3. Helping the client generate actions to support and achieve the change – new rituals and habits

 

But what, we may ask, is it that humans become self-aware about? As a starting point we might say, the Self. The Self is the modern psychological term used to describe what in the past we called the soul. What this Self or soul is lies beyond the scope of this book, but one does not need to be specifically religious to resonate with the idea, common all over the world, “that there is some part of us which should not be sold, betrayed or lost at any cost”i. It is who we are at a root level; and one only needs to reflect that everybody – yes, everybody – at some point in their life talks to themselves; indeed, many people do it all the time. But who are we speaking to when we talk to ourselves? It is as if there are two people present in this self-dialogue. The intellect or the mind or the ego, perhaps talking to the deeper Self, the soul, and if it waits long enough, getting answers back.

 

This is a fascinating topic: the human person is one, but already we find ‘two’ dialoguing within. If we take this a stage further, one clear model that is useful from a coaching perspective is to see a human being as having four interrelated, yet distinct, strands, rather like four strands in a rope that weave around each other to form one cable, which as a result of the interweaving is immeasurably stronger.

 

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These four strandsii are: the body (physical - doing), the mind (mental - thinking), the emotions (emotional - feeling) and the spirit (spiritual – knowing/being). Well-being is critical in all four areas, and a prolonged or sustained problem in one area will inevitably spill over and contaminate another. For example, there is now a well-known medical discipline called Psycho-immunology, which is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. In other words, ‘mere’ emotional stress can cause life threatening illnesses in the body. And so it is with all four areas interacting; and for the sake of clarity, the spiritual strand is not necessarily about religion or being religious. It is about man’s search for meaningiii; and to show how this can affect the whole person we need only to contemplate that there have been many examples of people who, regrettably, have lost all meaning in their lives, and this has led to negative thoughts, leading to emotional depressions, and in some instance to suicide, the death of the body.”

 

REFERENCES

 

i. A Complete Guide to the Soul, Patrick Harpur, Rider: Ebury Publishing, (2010).

ii. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey, Simon and Schuster, (1989).

iii. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, (1946).

 

Want to find out more, why not grab the book at a 30% discount. Remember to use the code MMJS230 at checkout. Enjoy!


Getting to Grips with Work Life Balance

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People today talk of their Work-Life Balance, which is good, but not entirely accurate; it suggests a split between work and life, a choice between the two which can be remedied by information or techniques that will enable them to co-exist in harmony: you can have work and life! However, work is part of life and the split is not two ways, but three, and it is the invisible 'third' element that makes all the difference in the world to the other two.

 

As we think about it, for all our lives, there are three core elements: there is work, in which we struggle to achieve something, or impose our signature on the external environment; there are relationships, in which we yearn to love and be loved by others, and gain their respect and co-operation; and finally, there is Self – our Self, our real Self – in which we seek to grow through self-awareness and self-development, and this imposes some sort of order on our internal environment.

 

These elements are dynamically interacting all the time. The most obvious example of this is when a colleague at work, known for their commitment and skills and quality output, suddenly loses interest in what they are doing, or becomes positively obstructive. Nobody can understand why this has happened, but upon investigation the root problem turns out to be nothing to do with work – turns out to be, for example, their partner has left them, or a parent has suddenly died. Thus, relationships outside work affect the work.

 

If this is true, it stands to reason that the Self, too, will also affect both work and relationships, just as they affect the Self. The problem is: very few people seem to understand that they have a 'Self' and that therefore they need to tend it! And tend it as you would a garden. The exception to this general stricture would the physical self and physical health. Because they can see and feel their physical bodies, people will take action to promote its well-being – join the gym, do yoga, eat well and so on. Far fewer pay attention to their mental self, their emotional self, and their spiritual Self. This is a tragedy because it is the Self that primarily fuels work and relationships as we shall see.

 

However, before we discuss this in more detail, let's briefly look at how the three life elements express themselves in our lives. If we were to sum up their content in one question, then it would be:

 

Work asks: what do I do?

 

Relationship asks: how do I get strokes*?

(*'Strokes' here is a technical word as used in Transactional Analysis = initially repetitious physical contact on which the infant depends to live; but subsequently not only physical but emotional 'contact'.)

 

Self asks: what does this mean?

 

All three questions are vital to us as human beings, but it should be clear that if we consider anybody, including ourselves, then we all have predilections. Some people regard the question, what do I do, as far more important than the other two. And what we see is how this manifests itself in the world: in fact this question is particularly pertinent to men and can lead to the often observed work-life imbalance that is so characteristic of them. A form of workaholic-ism emerges, whereby work becomes the be all and end all of their existence – and of some women's too.

 

Again, some people, and probably more women than men here, regard, how do I get strokes round here, as the core issue of their lives. Relationships are everything, and in a way they are right. There is a familiar adage, 'all for love', and another which says that ‘nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time in the office’. No, they wish they'd spent more time with the people they allegedly loved. But for all the power of love, the need for 'strokes' can have a dangerous sting in its tail: it can lead to compliance, co-dependence, and a loss of personal identity in the mad desire to have strokes come whatever may. There are many people out there who seem to have obliterated their Self, identifying only as a ‘mother’ or ‘father’ or ‘guardian’ and not having any attributes or talents they can call their own. This is, of course, a false self-perception, but for many it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In some instances, the object of their affection – often a child – becomes smothered, because the carer cannot bear spending time by themselves.

 

Finally, then, the third question, which seems cerebral and academic, but upon which so much depends: what does this mean? In his book Man's Search for Meaning the noted psychologist, Vicktor Frankel, concluded that the meaning question was at the core of our existence. Humanity simply could not live without it, but with it, could endure almost anything. This is fine and philosophical, but so many of us are too busy to pay any attention to the question, and so to ourselves, until it is too late. We mistake the customs, habits and values of civilisation as a given font of meaning, and then do not have the internal equipment to deal with pressure when the cracks appear, as they always do to a greater or lesser extent. Another way to look at it, is how many people actually really carefully think about who they are, what their place in the universe might be, or what their life must mean? These are big questions, and many will find them too scary to answer, but without them, our lives become simulacrum, ant-colony lives where we merely obey, eat, marry, reproduce and die.

 

So, to return to an earlier point, it is knowing the Self, it is allowing for personal growth, that is the key to both success at work and in relationships; further, it is the fuel that provides 'energy', motivation if you will, to these other two elements. Ultimately, the person who is either so busy working or so busy in a relationship or both burns out because there is no 'time for myself'. Time for the Self is critical, but using it wisely is a different matter, for it is in those spaces between the work and the relationships that many find being on their own, with their Self, unbearable, requiring narcotics and stimulants of one sort of another to cope.

 

So, the solution is to find more time to develop the Self. Read that book you’ve always wanted to challenge yourself with. Go on that training course you’ve been thinking about. Go off and have a weekend to yourself, even, because as fantastic as your relationship with your partner may be, sometimes time alone can re-charge you in ways that spending time with someone else, even someone so close, cannot. Work and relationship time is almost default programmed in to our societal existence, but time for the Self is not. We have to manage and claim that time for ourselves.

Thanks stopping by. Tune in in a couple of week's time for our next post, which includes an extract from my upcoming book Mapping Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan! Until then! 

 

 

 

 


Why Motivation Is Not In The Work Place

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It is not an original observation to say that in most work places we look we find that most people are not highly motivated. In many cases they are not motivated at all. They need to work and their commitment to and engagement with their employer extends no further than the next pay cheque. This is not a desirable state of affairs, and there are many reasons for it, but perhaps the most unnoticed aspect of the whole business is how little attention employers pay to the issue. It’s as if most of them live in a world where motivation of staff - and of themselves - is the least important thing, and having the least impact of all on the bottom line. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong, but if we look deeper matters are much worse.

 

The decision not to consider motivation as part of the business bottom line has profound psychological roots. It’s not just that business owners, directors and executives don’t think about motivation - much - it’s that they can’t. This becomes clear when we look at the four major pillars that underpin any business or organisation for that matter.

 

First, there is finance - the money! The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive the business: return on equity, profit, turnover, cash flow and so on. This is a yes-no situation: either we have the cash flow or turnover or relevant metric, or we don’t. Accountants, usually, supply us with this information. And when the worst occurs, we know that.

 

This principle also applies to the second pillar, sales and marketing, and also to the third: production and operations. Managers, for example, check on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly basis - how many leads, how many prospects, how many conversions, how many sales and so how much revenue has been generated. Ditto for marketing: the advertising campaign, the web strategy, produces how many enquiries or clicks? And ditto for production: we ask how many widgets this month or how many service calls?

 

The point being that even when times are bad, we know how we are doing. This is because we have Finance, Sales & Marketing, and Operations directors keeping tabs on all this productivity and information.

 

But put another way, when we think about companies, we have these types of directors in the main precisely because they attract the kind of people who are drawn to certainties: the spread sheet full of numbers that tell us where we are. And if we invest in inputs we can measure the outputs, which are usually fairly predictable: for example, for every hundred leads that our marketing produces we convert about five on average into an actual sale.

 

Notice in this that whether the business or organisation is doing well or badly one thing remains constant in the three dominant areas/pillars of the business: namely, the psychological certainty of knowing where we are, of having the numbers which become our compass through the changing environment. This need for psychological certainty is compelling, it produces emotional security, but has a disastrous side effect in the fourth area/pillar: the people category (in which leadership, culture, morale and motivation are included). Put simply, it doesn’t work. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt put it: “Not everything that counts can be counted.”

 

Specifically, in the areas of people motivation, leadership and culture we find that given in-puts do not necessarily produce predictable outputs. The most frequent and outstanding example of this occurs with money: pay increases often demote staff despite the fact that a wage increase is precisely what they say they want.

 

The reasons for this are complex; but all MDs, CEOs, and executives will have stories not just of the failure of money to motivate, but the failure of dozens of other initiatives too: be they re-structured flexi-time, increased time off, more training, better social events, environmental improvements, and so on – what would seem obviously a 'good thing' becomes for some reason a cause for disgruntlement.

 

Thus in the people domain the certainties of numbers give way to uncertainty, and with that there are the two corresponding phenomena: the rise of ambiguity, and the erosion of control. Most managers – exactly because they have sought to be managers – resent and resist these two tendencies. In fact, the best way of dealing with them is ignoring them altogether.

 

We 'contract' with people – don't we? - to do the work; so, we're paying them, so they should work, shouldn't they? A kind of blind eye approach is adopted in principle, and only when things go seriously wrong – by which I mean the numbers all start going negative – is some attention paid to staff motivation. And usually, in a fairly simplistic way: let's send them on a course!

 

So what we have, then, are 4 pillars of an organisation, three of which – Finance, Marketing/Sales, and Operations – produce emotional security in the way they are set up and constructed to be measured. This means that directors and senior managers, by and large, have a massive disposition to want to deal with these areas and, correspondingly, subconsciously or otherwise, an aversion to actually dealing with the fourth and final pillar on which the other three really depend: the People.

 

The people pillar, then, concerns itself with all that is not secure! With all that is ambivalent and difficult to quantify. What is it about people which makes them so intractable?

 

If we think about it, it is because life is really like that. To live is always to be aware of inherent difficulties (including death) whereas human civilisation and mankind's intellect tends to want to mask over that with its certainties and constructions. Thus, profoundly, in dealing with the people pillar, ‘management’ is never enough. Leadership is required with all that that entails. Leaders – who motivate – are the only ones who can create real value.

 

How can we define leadership as opposed to management? Well, there is too much to say on the matter in just one blog. For more information about good (and not so good) leadership, you might want to check out my article on Motivation & Psychopathology. But in essence, the difference between a leader and a manager is that a leader recognises that their number one priority is to motivate staff. In fact, all their other duties, such as administration, assessing KPIs, in some cases keeping track of shifts or holiday, etc etc, are all secondary to this primary objective, which is to keep people motivated. Another way to look at this is to think about the great military leaders of the world. There is a famous story about Alexander the Great, who, having crossed the Gedrosian desert, found that his army was short of water. Scouts were sent ahead, to search for a water supply, before the army dehydrated in the midst of the vast, barren wastes. They returned with a helmet full of water. ‘I’m sorry,’ they said. ‘But we only found this much in a small pool. Please, we need your mind to get us out of the desert, you take the water, Alexander. There’s not enough to feed all of us.’ Alexander is purported to have taken the helmet and poured the water out. ‘I will not drink while my men suffer and thirst,’ he said. ‘We must find enough for all of us.’

 

There’s a joke in the masterful David Fincher film The Fall that this was a waste of water, but the profound psychological effect this had on his men is clear. The fact this legend has been passed down, for millennia, goes to show the impact it had. In fact, Alexander did best the Gedrosian desert, and went on to fight a battle directly afterwards, which he won. The key word here is “inspire”. The word “inspire” comes from the Old English “enspire”, or the Latin “inspirare”, both of which meant “to blow/breathe into”. God is said to breathe life into us, and hence, when we inspire others, we breathe life into them. This is an incredibly powerful mode of being, and true leaders are inspiring all the time. So, to fix the de-motivation of our workplace, we must recruit more leaders!

 

 


Six Problems with the Success Syndrome

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The Medieval Period had a concept called the Wheel of Fortune; it was the basic idea that what went up must come down, and we as humans ought to know that and take cognizance of the fact at all times. More recently, it seems analogous to the Chinese idea of yin and yang: the sunshine of yang indicates we are experiencing success and prosperity, but the darker side of yin reminds us that success is not forever, and that there may be a dark valley we have to enter. This is something that many people in the West seem not to be able to grasp.

 

One need only examine the utopianism of the last few decades to see what I mean. There is an idea, at the moment, that technology will solve all our problems, and what’s more, that society is just going to keep getting better the more technology we have. I’m not disputing the importance of advancement, particularly medical and ecological advancement – our planet’s certainly wounded – but technology can become a kind of idol which we falsely worship. Need we be reminded of the military horrors technology makes possible? And now, too, technology brings into question all kinds of moral laws and debates. Cloning is on the imminent horizon – perhaps not of people, but of animals certainly – artificial eugenics, artificial intelligence, the list goes on and on. And yet we never seem to entertain the idea that all of this could go horribly wrong, or give credence to those warning against it. Ironically, we have made science into a kind of god that can break the natural laws of the universe: that things come in cycles. Science itself teaches us this – everlasting progress is impossible – but as a society we seem unable to internalise this message.

 

And business can be like this too. We all want success; we plan and work for it; and then it comes along and we think it will be forever. At an organizational level, as well as at a personal, this can be very dangerous. Indeed, the value of yin can be salutary, for success can have dreadful pitfalls. To bring in Greek mythology: success can be a kind of hubris, a sense that we are gods and can completely determine our own outcomes forever. This may sound extreme, but Thomas Merton expressed it perhaps too extremely this way: “Avoid at all costs one thing: success… if you are too obsessed with success you will forget to live. If you have only learned how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted”.

 

Here are six things that seem to happen when success becomes an organizational liability, and one should say too that this can happen at the individual level. The first thing is codification, or the way in which informal procedures that once proved successful now become rigid policies. In short, the erosion of flexibility and responsiveness occurs. With that, next, a growing internal focus develops which ignores outside threats; this is the beginning of all those internal politics whereby people are more concerned about their position within the ‘successful’ organization than they are about their customers. In fact, thirdly, the complexity of internal politics emerges full-blown and with it the preservation of power – or at least maintaining their position - becomes the primary objective of everybody within the organization.

 

Fourth, a mindset of arrogance and complacency takes root: problems, then, especially competitive problems, are rationalized and viewed as only temporary, mere blips, and the full seriousness of the situation is not properly assessed or apprised. The whole thrust of this momentum – the rigidity, internal focus, politicking and mindset – fifthly, starts disabling the learning process. The organization stops learning and incorporating new insights into its organizational memory; leaders – everybody – keeps trying to solve today’s issues and challenges with the skills and expertise of yesterday.

 

Finally, a deep conservatism takes hold and the organization becomes entirely risk averse; risk-averse in the worst sense of that phrase – not realizing that not changing is more risky than staying where they are. In a sense this is likely being in Dante’s Hell: where the people going on repeating formulaic activities that are ineffective, but they somehow and seemingly forever cannot break those habits. At least they cannot break them until reality intrudes and the organization goes bust, is acquired, or is broken up into smaller pieces, and so on.

 

These, then, are six major problems that develop when organizations become successful. There is no easy antidote to countering these sclerotic tendencies, but by way of general advice there are three things that can help us avoid these terrible rocks. The first is thinking about things more! "If everybody is thinking alike then somebody isn't thinking" said George S Patton, and that is a profound observation. The thing about success is that it tends to shut down the need to ‘think’ – one goes on automatic pilot. This is especially true with those businesses and organizations which major on ‘systems’ and processes’ and turn-key operations. They build themselves – having done the initial thinking – on not thinking; the system works. For evidence of how limited this might be, think McDonalds: an incredibly ‘successful’ franchise, but one now realizing that even their turn-key operation needs to re-think its market and its products as consumers become more health conscious and aware. How is thinking done, then, in your organization? What space is made available for it to occur, as opposed to business as usual?

 

Second, in order to get a permanent reality check, ask your customers and clients what they think, what they feel, how they experience you and your organization; there can scarcely be a better antidote to complacency and arrogance than this one simple test – yet doing this effectively is no simple thing, or indeed accepting the validity of the feedback.

 

Finally, take the pulse of your own employees, especially their emotional pulse. The best, most cost-efficient and result-effective way of doing this is not via staff surveys, but using the Motivational Maps profiling tool at individual, team and organizational level. This always produces a ton of surprising and unexpected data regarding what employees are thinking individually and en masse; the results of which can lead to deeper strategic thinking and planning.

 

So go for success, but be aware of its dangerous pitfalls and plan to ensure that you do not fall into one or more of them.

 

Next week, we will be looking at motivation in the workplace.


10 Strategies for Relieving Negative Self Talk

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Everyone at some time or another experiences negative self talk. As sapient creatures, aware of ourselves, unlike most animals we have immense capacity for self criticism. But it is not just our awareness of ourselves – and our flaws – that creates this self talk. It is also our ability to compare and contrast. Our grasp of time. If an animal suffers a horribly injury, such as losing a limb, it does not spend its days moping around for very long. It gets on with it. This is not to say that animals do not “feel” or possess emotions, for there is strong evidence to suggest that they do, but they are not able to bemoan their fate, or look back on halcyon days. Nor does the animal reprimand itself for its mistakes – it does not blame itself for the loss of limb, this is simply something that has happened. So, our intelligence as human beings is at once a blessing – empowering us to do amazing things – but can also be a curse, crippling us with self doubt and negativity.

 

The first character who speaks in the Bible is God. At Genesis 1:3 God says, “Let there be light”, and just as He speaks, the reality manifests. This is a pattern of God's language: he frequently speaks in imperatives, or what we might call commands. That's hardly surprising as He is God.

 

The first question in the Bible, however, is spoken by another character: the serpent – the Devil – who says, “Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?” And there we have it, the first question, the first, doubt, expressed by the Devil. Whether you want to believe in this literally is irrelevant to my purposes in this article; what is clear is that psychologically this is profoundly true. There is a Devil, a Satan, within all of us, and this being questions us, pokes holes in our arguments, mocks our sense of self importance. There is a reason we so often associate the “nasty little voice” in our heads with the demonic powers. In the case of the Garden of Eden, the Devil is casting doubt on the need for Adam and Eve to restrain themselves, and not eat the forbidden fruit.

 

Asking questions is all too often threatening to others, and all too often symptomatic of doubt in us. Whether that be doubt about our political institutions and their validity, or doubts about our partner or colleagues or bosses, once the questioning mode starts we all too frequently lose faith in someone or something, and our feelings about them become divided.

 

Nowhere is this more important than in our thoughts about ourself. Once we start serially questioning our own motives, our own talents and abilities, our own – and this is deepest of all – self worth, then we are in serious trouble: we cannot succeed at anything. To use the New Testament psychological insight: the house divided against itself cannot stand. We call this deep questioning of ourself 'negative self talk', and for some people it a permanent condition of torture.

 

How, then, can we lessen or even remove this thorn in our flesh? because every one at some time or another experiences this problem. Here are ten great ideas to help you relieve negative self-talk.

 

One, move, or more accurately, break the body set. What this means is that once we start being negative about ourself we find that a certain rigidity or tension creeps into our body and its posture. Thus, at its simplest level, going for a brisk walk is a good idea. Take those strides, feel those arms swinging purposefully side to side.

 

Second, be in the here and now. In other words, stop regretting the past or worrying about the future. Easier said than done? Yes. The key technique for being in the now is meditation and focusing on your breath. This can be aligned to point number one if we consider disciplines like yoga, chi gung or tai chi: in these the breath is central, as is breaking the body set, all the while slowing down and enjoying the moment.

 

Third, exaggerate the problem – yes, you heard right: exaggerate the problem! So, you are telling yourself that you are an unattractive person, that nobody would like you? Dead right – you're Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein’s monster, or whoever – and as the picture, the cartoon almost, forms in your mind, its very exaggeration starts becoming comical. If we can laugh at ourself, then we can offset the sting of the negativity.

 

Fourth, undertake physical exertion. This is slightly different from point one, because here we are talking about more serious and heavy physical exertion: some serious gardening, for example, is quite different from going for a brisk walk. And so might be a serious house clean. It will be different for every one of us depending on our age and fitness and health; nevertheless, physical exertion always takes our mind away from the negative ramblings of our mind.

 

Fifth, create your own safe place, or haven, or as I like to call it, my den. Where can you go where you feel at peace, at one, and safe? This may be a room in your house or flat. It may be, as it often is for people, a spot in nature – a park, a beach, a forest. Beauty always heals.

 

Sixth, review the sounds that surround you. Do you have music that is beautiful, that is healing, that restores you? Not to put to fine a point upon it, there are some musical styles which are ugly, discordant, aggressive and manufactured to maximise unhappiness in your soul. Avoid these. Instead, listen to the opposite; that may include some popular and modern music; but do not forget the wonders of JS Bach. As Roberto Assagioli put it in his marvellous book, Psychosynthesis: “The music which can especially produce this kind of healing influence is that of JS Bach ...” and he cites Albert Schweitzer who calls a composition by Bach, “an expression of the Primal Power which manifests itself in the infinite rotating worlds”. Bach is “a song of love, unfolding itself in the light of intelligence, and impelled by will. That is why it enriches so much.”

 

Seventh, talk with someone. A good friend can correct our erroneous views of ourself, can restore the correct balance to our thoughts, can enable us to see the good when all we can grasp is the bad. This is especially important for men who have a tendency to bottle things in, regard 'sharing feelings' as unmanly, which is clearly a mistaken and negative thought in itself.

 

Eighth, consider other people. One of the problems with negative self talk is its tendency to promote self-obsession at the expense of true self love. Who can you help? Who needs your assistance or support? Once we think like this we begin to realise too that whatever we were thinking our shortcomings were, there may be somebody else who has it far worse than we do. This, bizarrely, though not good in itself, relying as it does on comparison, yet can get us to re-evaluate our own position.

 

Ninth, take a nap, and indeed sleep more. Sleep is nature's healing balm, and we need more of it. In our pressurised Western life styles some people do not get enough sleep – which should be at least seven hours a day. If you know you are only getting five or six hours, ensure you steal naps during the course of the day. You'll feel a lot better and negative thinking will recede.

 

Finally, and possibly controversially, learn to pray. If meditation is listening in the silence to the voice of the universe, then prayer is asking and focusing with intention on the universe to help. There are no atheists in fox-holes, as the saying goes, and developing humility through prayer is paradoxically one of the single most powerful things you can do to feel better about yourself. It's counter-intuitive, but it's true, as many testify. Pray – for as it says in the First Epistle of John 3: 19-20: “We set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” Surely, that is a staggering thought that silences doubt even as we begin to contemplate its majesty?

 

Even if we do not accept prayer in the denominational sense, or a higher power, we can all do with asking for help. Sometimes, we cannot talk to people, because people are so subjectively predisposed. We can feel like we already know exactly what words and advice will pour from their lips before we’ve even asked them. In addition, we can sometimes feel too self-conscious about our negative self talk and feelings to adequately put it into words. We Brits, in particular, downplay ourselves, including our problems, leading to people assuming we are “okay”. Speaking to the universe, however, the unified cosmos, can be far more liberating. And if you believe, in your heart, that there is something out there listening with “Sublime Compassion”, then to quote the Buddhists, you are all the better for relieving your negative state.

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This motivational webseries will continue in two weeks' time, with an article on Six Problems with the "Success Syndrome". Thanks, as always, for dropping by! And if you have any thoughts or strategies for relieving negative self talk, be sure to leave them in the comments. 

 


The Need for Productivity

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Why do we want to be motivated? So far, in this web series, we’ve discussed numerous ways in which we can get motivated, and maintain our motivation levels through stressful experiences, but it’s worth also pausing and considering why we want to attain motivation in the first place. There are so many reasons, but one key one – at least from a business standpoint, as opposed to the personal and spiritual sphere – is performance and productivity; the two go hand in hand.

 

Performance is about being on top of one’s work, of being able to achieve things both for oneself and for the organization, and inevitably, as night follows day, if we perform at a high level for any length of time we start becoming extremely productive. So being productive means that we produce ‘stuff’: products, services, ideas, innovations, value and profit. Possibly, then, being productive is the number one thing that employers want from their employees; it’s self-evidently mission critical.

 

What makes a highly productive employee? Who are the highly productive employees? If we remember the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 Rule, we will be clear that these highly productive individuals can be up to 16 times more productive than their less successful counterparts. Sixteen times! That is a staggering achievement especially if we are dealing with, as we frequently are, people being paid the same standard salary. Further, and awfully, the Pareto Principle also clearly means that 20% of our employees produce 80% of our profit (or value-add), and sadly, 80% produce only 20%. The challenge, then, is to skew this law so that it works more in our favour: imagine how much more productivity and profit would be possible if instead of 80-20, we had 70-30 or even 60-40. In other words, imagine what would happen for our organization if we doubled the number of employees who are seriously productive?

 

But how do we find these 'productive' individuals? Productivity is a people issue. People make things happen - or not. This seems to be a revelation to some managers, as if merely pushing people around and simply paying them a wage leads to high productivity. The reality is that this approach leads to subtle sabotage and non-vocal resistance: lip-service to the organizations and its goals, but at root a deep dislike and resentment. Eventually, of course, it leads to outright hostility and then we go down the line of cost: somebody quits and we have to start all over again. Alternatively, bad managers take the view that they can discount their people because technology will do it all – how misguided can one be?

 

People are in one sense like bees: they like being productive, they like being in a well-tuned hive where everyone and everything has its place and all is purposeful. It produces honey and sweetness, and the sense of a life well spent. But what is productivity and where is it in the scheme of things? Now that’s the interesting thing; that’s the thing which if all managers understood they might get real about leading their employees instead of just paying them.

 

Productivity is what it says it is: it is the ability of the individual (and teams) to produce something – to create: be that a product (a thing), a service, or value. In short, productivity is about adding to the sum of existence: something that wasn’t there before is now there, and as a direct result of the individual’s efforts. You’d think everybody would want to be productive, not least because it boosts one’s own self-esteem; but if you think so, you’d be wrong. That said, however, the important thing to grasp is the position of productivity in the scheme of organizational activities.

 

For productivity sits midway between the two other vital ‘P’s: performance and profit! Productivity is the bridge to profits! As Dr. Alex Krauer said, “When people grow, profits grow”. We need high performing people to start with. We need therefore to focus on recruitment in the first instance and how we go about that. But clearly, productivity must involve employee performance too; there is no way round it. We have to go back to first principles. Yes, we want the profits and we can anticipate and plan for them, but we can’t just kick people into being productive; they need to be high performing individuals and teams. So if we are not happy with our current levels of productivity, then how are we going to change the situation? By doing some serious thinking about the performance of our individuals!

 

This can be done on an individual level, team level, and on the organizational level. But here is a quick, personal aide-memoir to ask yourself, and then to ask yourself about your employees: what one skill, if you had it now, would make the greatest impact on your own productivity? This could be anything - a technical, or interpersonal, or strategic skill. Whatever it is, now you’ve identified it, how are you going to bridge the gap? 

 

Similarly, what one skill if your employees had it now would make the biggest difference to the productivity of the whole? Remember that the whole point about the ‘one skill’ that would have the greatest impact is that we are invoking the Pareto Principle – a small number of things, one even, can have a disproportionate influence on everything else.

 

Skills are one necessary thing; the other is motivation – what’s your plan to increase your own and your employees’ motivation? Without it, even the skills will wither: there is no alternative!

 


Three Tools for Personal Development

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In the modern world, there is, more than there ever was before, a drive to constantly achieve new things and get to the next stage of ‘life’ and ‘success’. This can manifest in all kinds of ways: sometimes it is material, in that we want the next car or promotion or house; sometimes it is creative, in that we rush from one project to the next without pausing to reflect on the achievement of having completed the first one. Creative people are especially vulnerable to this. They disregard their own back catalogue of triumphs. How many times have you heard a creative person say: ‘Oh, that’s my old stuff. You should check out my new projects, they’re much better!’

Stephen King once joked that ‘As far as my fans are concerned, I might as well have died after I wrote The Stand.’ But the thing is, that book was and remains a remarkable achievement, and while he has gone on to complete 0ther, arguably equally remarkable works, it’s not shameful to be associated with an iconic former triumph. Of course, the other side of this are the ‘has-beens’, people who live off of former achievements without feeling the need to contribute anything new. Many creative people are paranoid about morphing into these parasitical individuals, and hence push themselves even harder to get to their next endeavour.

So, in the light of this and the upcoming release of my second motivation book: Mapping: Motivation for Coaching, co-written with Bevis Moynan, and now available from here (and for a 20% discount enter the code: FLR40 at checkout), I decided to revisit some all important lessons from my previous book, Mapping Motivation. Here are three personal development tools, explored in detail in the book, that you can use to inform your motivational practice. The thing about revisiting old material is that, hopefully, good things remain relevant for a long time, sometimes even forever. The bad stuff, you can leave behind.

Mapping Motivation has a chapter on Leadership which provides a new model that has, at the heart of it, the surprising fact that motivation and the ability to motivate others is at least 50% of what a leader is required to do. This is counter-intuitive and not what we expect; and not what most other models claim is the essence of effective leadership. The model is called the '4+1 Model' and I direct you to Chapter 8 of the book to get a full account of it, but for now trust me if I say that the '1' of the '4+1' model is all about personal development and growth, and that without this growth, the leader cannot function well even if they have the other necessary skills (the '4'). So how do we grow as people, as leaders?

All growth and personal development begins with self-awareness: the self being aware of itself, becoming aware of dissatisfaction with its self, and projecting, therefore, changes that will enable it to ‘improve’. In other words, to engage in a creative process with itself. There are three primary and creative tools of personal development that follow from this self-awareness.

One, desire itself: seeing our own condition we desire to improve, rectify, and enhance it. Desire is not motivation but it precedes it. The consequence of this, then, is that our emotions are vital to our development, and are not playing some subordinate role to our thought and logical processes. It is desire at its intensest level that leads in most situations to the solving of the most pressing problems that we encounter, including our own problem!

Two, imagination: the self produces images that begin a process of manifestation. The etymology of the word manifestation is from the Latin for “hand” - we can ‘handle’ thoughts via manifestation. Manifestation, then, is the process by which material reality comes into existence as a concretization of what the mind has ‘seen’, or, if you will, 'pre-seen'. (There is a wonderful story about Roy Disney, who after his father's death, and the opening of Disney Land, had some sympathiser murmuring: 'If only your father had lived to see this'. To which he replied: 'But he did see it and that's why you’re seeing it now'.) Hence, it is too that we find that the visible things depend upon the invisible things for their existence. There is a wonderful line from the Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead which expresses this: “All the world which lies below has been set in order and filled in contents by the things which are placed above; for the things below have not the power to set in order the world above”.

Three, expectations: our beliefs in future outcomes, or in short, faith. What we believe, especially about the future, has an inordinate effect upon that future and upon the outcomes (of life) for us. So much so, our belief – faith – may be considered a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Meditation is the process and the objective by which self-awareness is maximized. This leads to the interesting reflection that altered brain wave patterns – not the everyday beta brain way patterns (which are in the range of about 13-40 Hz) - are intimately connected with developing self-awareness. Deepak Chopra made the profound observation that: “It is possible to spend a lifetime listening to the inventory of the mind without ever dipping into its source”. Clearly, any leader in this non-creative state is likely to be (a) highly ineffective, and (b) ego-driven, with all the terrible consequences that implies.

Two corollaries, then, of this are: first, relaxation is therefore essential not only to human development but human happiness too. Secondly, the ultimate relaxation is in sleep, and sleep itself requires both the non-being (as it were) state of non-consciousness AND the dream state. In fact, the dream state is every bit as essential as the non-conscious state. Why? Possibly because dreams themselves, remembered or otherwise, are primary agents shaping our desires, imagination and expectations. Bizarrely, then, the real changes we want in our life, and even the fact we want them, derive from the invisible, intangible, insubstantial and nebulous world within us.

If we want to be leaders, then, we need to pay attention - much like Sherlock Holmes - not to the obvious details of everyday life, but more intently to the small creative things that have in the longer term such a huge impact on reality.

Tune in next week for another webseries blog on the need for productivity.


Motivation and Psychopathology

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One of the truly difficult things to come to terms with is the failure of the ‘system’. By which I mean your system, my system, anybody’s system. It’s as if we invest so much time and effort and creativity into inventing systems that we cannot accept when they fail or crash. The financial crash of 2008 is a classic example. Of course, when we look at it now, it seemed obvious that it had to happen, but as it unfolded at the time there was a general incredulity as to how it could have occurred. Wasn’t the financial sector employing the best brains in the country? Wasn’t the regulation quality assured? Didn’t the politicians and Government actively promote and endorse what was going on? Hm.

All systems fail; just when we think we’ve cracked ‘it’, it cracks! For example, there are many things we can do to improve our recruitment processes, including using psychometrics, systematic interviewing processes, CV checks and so on. Yet, still the duff candidate gets the job and upends the ‘systematic’ procedures.

My own product, Motivational Maps, is a wonderful and systematic device for discovering what motivates and how motivated people are; further, its Reward Strategies package can help managers and directors really identify how to get their teams energized and moving. But there’s always one person for whom the Map doesn’t apply. Strangely, this is not because the Map is inaccurate, but because the Map cannot measure what some people carry around with them: psychopathology!

For these people, whatever their personality traits or their motivational profile, there is a bigger agenda that must be followed. Perhaps a good word for this would be obsession – an obsession that destroys reason, logic and all internal coherence.

Norman F. Dixon’s wonderful book on the Psychology of Military Incompetence has a useful section on the difference between the autocratic (which can sometimes be justified) and the authoritarian leader, which is psychopathological (and cannot be justified).

The behavioural characteristics of the authoritarian personality, he says, are:

 

(1) Conventionality: a rigid adherence to middle-class values. We all know this person. They always do things ‘by the rules’, to the point at which it becomes almost impossible to be spontaneous or to create anything new. Often, when asked why a certain process is the way it is, or why the company follows certain procedures, the reply will be ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’.

 

(2) Submissiveness: to the idealized moral authority of the group with which s/he identifies self, and to higher authority. As far as the authoritarian is concerned, hierarchy is all, regardless of hypocrisy, corruption or abuse. If the CEO has ordered that all employees are no longer allowed to drink tea during office hours, then it must be right, regardless of the patent negative impact, and frankly dehumanising ideology behind such a move. You might think that example is far-fetched, but I have seen it in more than one company, where a CEO (or ‘Company President’ where they adopt the American vernacular) is so determined to control his/her workforce, that they are prepared to infringe on the most basic pleasures – making a good cuppa after a tough morning.

 

(3) Aggressiveness: towards those who violate conventional values. These authoritarian individuals often will behave aggressively towards those who challenge convention, shutting them down, cutting across them while they are mid-way through making a point. Picture the scene, if you will: a team is having a meeting with their middle-manager. One of the team is highly respected by his fellows because of his positive attitude. This respected team member is ‘whacky’, often talking about subjects which are not traditionally work-appropriate, but it is this whackiness which really lifts the spirits of the team on a hard day’s shift. The authoritarian middle-manager opens up the floor at the end of the meeting, asking the team for suggestions. The ‘whacky’ team member takes the opportunity to put up his hand and offer a suggestion. Begrudgingly, the manager let’s them talk, but the others can already sense the hostility. After thirty seconds, the manager interrupts, shutting down the suggestion and deriding it as unworkable, unrealistic, and unhelpful. This behaviour not only reinforces the ‘control’ model of management (talked about in an earlier article), thereby making any attempt to ask for suggestions frankly redundant, but also humiliates one of the colleagues, ostracizing them, and cautionioning the others against befriending them. Of course, often these tactics backfire, as picking out a respected colleague normally only unifies the team against the manager.

 

(4) Anti-intraceptive: opposes the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded. God forbid, that someone use their imagination at work. Authoritarians actively fear those who are creative, because creativity poses a threat to established order. It is ironic that we, as a society, are deeply critical of the rigid inflexibility of medieval thinking (where they quite literally destroyed anything or anyone that opposed the Christian model of understanding) and yet much of the modern business landscape persists with this mode. We attack that which questions, or raises concern, or offers solution.

 

(5) Stereotypy: disposition to stereotype and think in rigid categories. Have you ever heard your manager talking about an employee that irritates them in broad, borderline offensive terms? It is probably because they are authoritarian and therefore may have a tendency to stereotype (irony intended). For example, how many managers insist their employees are ‘lazy’ or ‘greedy’ when in fact they are worked to death and do not even make a third of what their manager makes? Studies have revealed that only 65% of people are paid for their overtime. The average person loses £4,500 a year from not accurately claiming their overtime. How, then, can so many employees be ‘greedy’ or ‘lazy’ if in fact the majority work more than they are supposed to and get paid less than they have earned? Stereotypy does not permit these facts, however, because they challenge an ordered world. You will often find sexism is a huge part of stereotypy. Women are not paid as much as men, and managers justify this with excuses such as: ‘They’re just going to get pregnant and leave us’ or ‘They don’t work as hard: they spend more time talking’. We must move away from this mode of reductionism, and embrace that all people are unique, as much as possible.

 

(6) Power: preoccupation with 'strong' leadership, exaggerated assertions of toughness. It is strange that in an increasingly ‘civilised’ world, in which disputes are not settled with our swords or fists but with reason and law, many managers and employees – both male, female and otherwise – feel the need to play up to cave-era standards of machismo. I find this manifests in several ways: the ludicrously loud voice, wielded almost like a sledgehammer; the braggadocio and less-than-friendly banter; the insistent on unhealthy drinking culture on at corporate events. A friend of mine told me about a colleague of his. This colleague, during his qualification period to become a lawyer, made friends with a senior Judge. Despite their age difference, the two had a real affinity. The lawyer was very mature for a young guy in his twenties, the Judge in his late fifties, and the two spoke often of the ills of modern binge-culture, obsessive self-destructive party-going, and the societal damage caused by this behaviour. The Judge was something of a mentor. Needless to say, the lawyer-to-be was therefore very surprised when, on a corporate do, the Judge set a line of ten vodka shots before him and said: ‘If you want to get your training contract, you’re going to have to drink all of these.’ Even the Judge, though in the rational light of day he could offer critique, was unable to escape the authoritarian illusion that people must undergo ‘initiation’ rituals, and prove their ‘toughness’, in order to succeed in life.

 

(7) Cynical: frequent vilification of others. Always seeing the worst in people, always assuming that they are trying to ‘play the system’ or ‘get as much as they can out of the company’. A salesman I know was once called into an official ‘hearing’ because he had made a mistake on his overtime sheets. He had claimed an extra half-hour than he had actually worked, and his manager had spotted this error. In the meeting, he explained, in a measured fashion, that it was merely an error on his part, because he normally did work those hours, but this week he had left half an hour early for a chiropractor appointment. Effectively, he had filled in the sheet on auto-pilot. He apologised and said he would make up the hours the next week. The managers, however, did not accept this explanation. They continued to grill him, and say that he was trying to ‘extort’ the company and abuse their generosity. At this point, my friend, normally a mild-mannered and wonderfully humourous, a gentle guy, flew off the handle completely. ‘You’re seriously going to do all this for the sake of £5.00?’ he said. Even on overtime, he was being paid only £10.00 an hour. The meanness of this is beyond satire or parody, for the company he works for turns over something like 22 million a year. This kind of behaviour finds its roots in deep cynicism.

 

(8) Projectivity: the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses, so that the world is constantly interpreted as being a dangerous place. For some people, everything is ‘risk’ and nothing is ‘opportunity’. We all know those corporate environments where people spend more time covering their backs (getting everything triple-confirmed via email, for example, because to accept someone’s word on something is too dangerous) than actually working. This is also linked a deep repression, which is particularly prevalent in our society.

 

(9) 'Puritanical' prurience: exaggerated concern with sexual 'goings-on'. There is a tendency to treat working adults as children. The fact is, it really should not be the concern of upper management what the personal and private relations of two adults are; surely there are more direct concerns to be dealing with!

This is a list which is useful precisely to the degree to which we can measure ourselves along the nine axes. The point is: when we encounter these behaviours in force, few systems of support and explanation are going to help us deal with them. Better to move on if we can, or practise quiet resilience.

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Next week, we discuss tools for personal development! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!


The Difference Between Quiet and Loud Motivation

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Welcome again to the third installment in this webseries on motivation. If you missed the first or second episode, don’t fret, everything here on the internet is eternal (so long as modernity endures, which, in the current state of things, is slightly precarious). This week, we’re going to be looking at the differences between ‘quiet’ and ‘loud’ motivation.

 

Is it me or is it just a faddish whim I am experiencing when I say I wish to have some quiet motivation? Apparently, we need motivation to get us out of our comfort zone - that area of un-achievement familiar to most people at some period of their life. In that sense, I think motivation is good. But when I talk about quiet motivation I am rebelling against that Animal Farm bleat of ‘comfort zone baaaad, risk-taking gooood’.

 

A while ago, some ten years or more, I saw a news item on National TV news about a couple whose big idea for marriage was getting hitched on a plane. That image has stuck with me, become a kind of emblem of our time. Yes, that's right, getting hitched on a plane. To be more precise, 3 small bi-planes: they trained so that the minister (who was selected on the basis of having no fear of heights) and couple could all stand on their respective planes a thousand feet up in the air where, using a comms system, they exchanged vows. Again, to be more specific, their standing involved being strapped on the outside of the plane. They were keen to do something different. It certainly was that - as I'm sure their guests observed as they roared overhead.

 

They were certainly motivated, in one sense, to do something different and highly risky. But performance includes three key ingredients: motivation - they had that; skill - yes, that too, as they didn't fall off; and direction - ah yes, here surely there is something wrong.

 

What could conceivably be the point of such a performance except to attract publicity - and for what? If it's balanced with the risk to life and limb, what purpose could it serve? Now, ten years on, social media is bigger than it ever was. The majority of young people claim they want to be YouTube stars when they grow up, a recent study revealed. More and more, we are becoming infatuated with the idea of spectacle, public display, and public image. Once, that was the province of kings and emperors – those with the wealth and means to flaunt their immense power – but now everyday people, too, wish to be seen to be doing ‘great’ or ‘daring’ things above all else. And that is the operative word: ‘seen’. Nevermind that so many young people, with the most vibrant and creative social media profiles, commit suicide because the reality of their lives is miserable. Increasingly, our perception of how people are – the seeming joy of their lives reflected in photo-shopped images, doctored videos, and pithy statements of world-affinity – is divorced from the reality.

 

Of course, the examples I am talking about are very extreme, but it does seem as if that is the way of it: people feeling under tremendous pressure to be different, not to conform, and to take enormous risks over pretty meaningless activities. The irony is that in striving not to conform they become part of the amalgamated flock, because this is the zeitgeist of the times.

 

The world of motivation is also full of this sort of stuff. Companies book ludicrously expensive trips for their employees, at the behest of motivational gurus, to walk on fire, bungee-jump, or trek up mountains. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, there must be a reason for it. There must be ‘direction’. I am reminded of a story my son once told me. My son, in his spare time, is an avid tabletop wargamer. He collects miniatures, paints them, and sends them to battle on 4’ x 4’ boards lavishly decorated with miniature scenery. Contrary to the view that wargamers are isolated, anti-social people, the wargaming community is extremely active, some gamers meeting up two or three times a week to socialize, play games, and talk about their shared passion. How much healthier is this than the Friday-night drinking sessions that most people need to get through the week?

 

But this aside, a few years ago my son was talking to one of the staff members working at Games Workshop, who said that, as they had some new staff in, they had been sent on a paintballing day by management. You might think that this fits the bill of what I was discussing about earlier: something extreme without a real point. But, it is different, because of course paintballing ties in with the wargaming hobby the staff so love, and is a game where people must bond, and work together, in order to overcome an obstacle. ‘Team-building’ is the oft-dreaded phrase for it.

 

The Games Workshop staff-member, who my son idolized at the time, said that, unbeknownst to them, the paintballing marshals had pitted the ‘nerds’ against an assortment of navy, infantry, and paratroopers on their off-season. Expecting a massacre, it transpired that the Games Workshop staff had a few tricks up their sleeves. Years of devoting every spare moment to customizing armies, enacting military strategies, and visualizing warfare from a bird’s eye view, meant that they were much more tactically fluid than the infantry they were up against, who were used to following orders from higher-ups. The ‘nerds’ from Games Workshop beat them handily, to the utter astonishment of all parties involved. Imagine the joy, the sense of achievement and bonding, they experienced at the end of the day. That is ‘team building’ and ‘loud’ motivation done right.

 

The Games Workshop day worked because of the type of staff the company was dealing with, the type of company and products and experiences they were offering, and the fact that they were introducing a new member of staff to the team. It’s not for everyone. In fact, for many people, a day of paintballing, squatting in smelly, mud-slick trenches, would be their idea of hell. To pull off ‘loud’ motivation, you have to tap into the unique feeling and wants of your staff at a specific moment in time. ‘Quiet’ motivation, however, is far more universal, far less expensive, and doesn’t lead to a thirst for always getting bigger and bigger (once you take your employees on a trip, most will expect a bigger trip next year). The fact is that many of us are worked half to death, and the endless pressure to ‘keep up appearances’ and go to parties and social events in our personal life is exhausting enough, let alone socialising extensively with our work colleagues.

 

So, we must find ways to recharge our batteries, recuperate, re-align. For many people, the idea of relaxing is synonymous with watching TV (particularly with the advent of systems like Netflix, wonderful though they are). But the problem with this is screens in general – computer screens, monitors, TV screens, even Kindle screens – are very draining, and tend to numb us rather than charge us up. What’s the solution? Well, it might surprise you in its simplicity. My challenge to all these restless types who seem to want to go beyond their comfort zone is to do as Voltaire said: cultivate your own back garden. Now, that would really be stretching it a bit, wouldn't it? If that seems too staid, then I suggest a week away on a silent, religious retreat - vegetarian fare only. Time for meditation and quiet motivation to re-charge those exhausted adrenals.

 

Next week, we discuss psychopathology in motivation, and the dangers of an ‘authoritarian’ regime! Stay tuned to the series coming to a webpage near you!

 

 


The Language of Motivation

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Hello, and welcome back to this continuing series on motivation. Last week, we looked at how to get motivated by going back to basics. This week, we are now going to be looking at how we can motivate others.

 

In 2008, Shankar Vedantam wrote a fascinating article for the Washington Post, in which he made the profound observation that rewards and punishments have replaced people’s intrinsic motivations. Correspondingly, the effect has been counterproductive: namely, people become less motivated as a result of these rewards and punishments.

 

I believe this observation is as true now as it was ten years ago. And although there has been an incremental paradigm shift from top-down, militaristic approaches of corporate governance (discussed in more detail in my book Mapping Motivation), to something more bottom-top, the widely used model is still that of control. In most cases, this control is leveraged via twofold financial means: you will be made redundant if you do not perform exactly as you are instructed (putting you in a financial strait) and you will be given a monetary bonus if you do (you will have cash to spare).

 

Coupled with this, there is also a commonly held belief that people are not ‘fired’ on the spot in the same way they used to be, or that employees are no longer at the mercy of a tyrannical manager’s whim in the ways they were in the early 20th Century. I would ask anyone who maintains this belief to spend a single day working in a service centre. The 1950s is alive and well in modern Britain. Businesses will always find a way, sad though that is, to control.

 

The other, more insidious, problem is that contrary to popular belief, not everyone is motivated by money. In fact, the majority of people are not motivated by money, strange as it may sound. Of course, we all like the idea of money, but in actuality it does not bring happiness, nor allows us to maintain it.

 

So, what does a bottom-top approach look like? To me, this is typified by managers working to discover the needs of employees and helping to meet them. Because this is beneficial not only to the employee but the manager and company as a whole. To lift an extract from Mapping Motivation: a primary aspect of any manager’s job is ensuring that they understand what their employees actually want and take the steps that guarantee they get it. So a second and far-reaching implication of this work is that the role of the manager is subtly changing: it is not just about content, content, content – ‘what are our goals, let’s do it’. It is now about process: how do we get the people on board, so they want to do it?”

 

So we have cultures that major on rewarding by money or by status, or alternatively gain acquiescence through fear of punishment. The basic and possibly unexamined assumption must be that anyone joining such an organisation or culture seeks precisely that carrot or stick option to maintain their motivation. The reality of course – in terms of outcomes – is very different.

 

The truth is: motivation is like a language – if you go to France the best way of getting on with the French is to speak their language. And they are not alone – the Spanish like Spanish, the Welsh like Welsh, and every culture prefers its own dialect. Alas, the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ English speakers are notorious for expecting every tribe on Earth to speak English, and perhaps this attitude infects their management styles too.

 

Therefore, the real question is: how do we discover what motivates each individual? One way would be to listen to the flatulent harpings on of managers who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and will tell you unequivocally: they know their people. Interestingly, over 90% of these same managers fail to actually predict their own top three motivators! Equally, parents claim the same about their kids – we know what motivates our children! But you wouldn’t think so, would you, when you speak to those same employees and kids once they have left the influence zone?

 

Just as we have a language(s) to measure personality, we need a language and a metric to measure motivation, so that managers and parents need no longer guess. Such a language has been created – Motivational Maps®. But the thing is, motivation isn’t easy. For one thing, it changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. This means that unlike personality profiles, which tend to be constant, motivation needs to be monitored.

 

If before we said it was like a language, now we claim it is like a muscle: you exercise it and it can grow and change. Of course, exercise can be hard work – and we all want to avoid that. It is enough for most of us that we are focused on organisational goals; the idea that we have to discover and speak the appropriate motivational ‘language’ for all our colleagues is too exhausting to contemplate. We pay them enough, don’t we?

 

However, for those who wish to be really effective, as well as gifted communicators, this is the route to go down – the new route – the route that a new language of motivation opens up.

 

Next week, we discuss 'loud' versus 'quiet' motivation. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you! 

 

 

 


My Ten Year Anniversary of Blogging: What We Learn By Going Back to Basics

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This year marks the ten year anniversary of my first blog! Happy Tin Anniversary to me! When you reach ‘landmark’ or ‘significant’ anniversaries, it gives you pause to reflect. In some ways, it’s why we have them. After ten years of being married, for example, it’s good to reflect on your relationship with your partner: is it as good as it has always been, are there ways we can improve even further, is there anything we would change? Appraisal is important.

 

Whilst the modern world moves at the speed of light, abandoning trends and technology no sooner than they are created, reading back through this first blog, published in 2008 (what feels like a world away), has caused me to reflect on something very important. However expert you become, however dominant in your chosen field, and however much technology advances or changes the working environment, we can all benefit from being reminded of the basics. Sometimes, even maestro pianists must perform scales. Even world-champion martial-artists have to jog and train to increase their fitness. We all need, at times, to get back in touch with the grassroots level of the skill.

 

So, here it is, my first ever blog, which talks about where motivation comes from, and how we can more easily achieve it. I hope it helps you, and to all those struggling to be motivated to do the thing you love, or even to get out of bed, just remember that it helps to go back to the roots of the thing.

 

Motivation comes from three major sources within us. First, there is a sort of historical or genetic component of motivation that we understand or classify as our personality. Different personalities are motivated differently - no revelation there; and when we break the personality down to the four major types that underpin most systems we find there is a specific motivation at the heart of each one.

 

One take on this would be: four motivations - control, recognition, belonging, and accuracy. Not much to change since personality tends to stay the constant, but then again if I focus on my profile and consider 'recognition' is what my type wants, then maybe if this blog could achieve that I would feel more motivated to do it.

 

Second, in driving motivation, is our self-concept. This has three components including self esteem, self image and the ideal self. Fundamentally, how we think and feel about ourselves either produces or stifles our energy and desire to do anything. What am I thinking and feeling about blogging? Fear - new technology - what fear? That I cannot handle it in the way I handle a book? Is that it?

 

Finally, third, is expectations: what I believe about future outcomes. of course, if I believe that blogging is going to create a wonderful result for me, then my motivation increases. So, my best bet might be to do my searches on line, and find excellent examples of those people who have blogged and got results. This would encourage me to blog - to write this blog now. Are there such examples?

 

Who then has achieved recognition and other good outcomes from blogging and gone on to be even more motivated to blog? Let me have your stories and recommendations please, so that I can continue - motivated!

 

May the One be with you. Stay tuned for more blogs about how to get motivated, how to get back to basics, and how you can improve your work-life. A series coming to a webpage near you!